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An Introduction To Mechatronics Experiment: Lego Mindstorms Next Urban Challenge

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in Mechanical Engineering Experiments and Labs

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.229.1 - 12.229.8



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Paper Authors


Nebojsa Jaksic Colorado State University-Pueblo Orcid 16x16

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Nebojsa I. Jaksic received the Dipl. Ing. degree in electrical engineering from Belgrade University in 1984, the M.S. in electrical engineering, M.S. in industrial engineering, and Ph.D. in industrial engineering from The Ohio State University in 1988, 1992, and 2000, respectively.

From 1992 to 2000 he was with DeVry University in Columbus, OH. In 2000, he joined Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he is currently an Associate Professor. Dr. Jaksic's interests include mechatronics and nanotechnology education and research. He is a member of IEEE, IIE, SME, MRS and ASEE.

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Dawn Spencer Colorado State University-Pueblo

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Dawn E. Spencer received B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from The Ohio State University's School of Engineering in 1990 and 1992 respectively.

After working as an independent contractor for many years for companies ranging in size from family businesses to IBM, Dawn accepted a position at Colorado State University – Pueblo in 2000, where she is currently an Assistant Professor in the CIS department of the Hasan School of Business. She is a member of ISSA and ASEE.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Introduction to Mechatronics Experiment: LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge


This work describes a laboratory experiment designed for an introductory mechatronics course to employ discovery-based learning. Two robotic vehicles are constructed using new LEGO Mindstorms NXT sets. One of the two moving robots is equipped with sensors and programmed to follow the prescribed path on an enlarged city map. The other robot has no sensors and is programmed to follow the first robot. Programming of the robots is accomplished using the National Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT and the Mindstorms NXT software. The inter-robot communication necessary for robot following uses Bluetooth wireless technology. This experiment mimics some segments of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Urban Challenge – a 2007, $2,000,000 prize autonomous vehicle challenge to complete 60 miles in traffic in less than six hours.


LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge is a six-hour engineering design experiment implemented as a part of an introductory mechatronics course. Its major function is to promote discovery-based active learning and knowledge systematization. Robot building is a powerful student motivational tool1. Mimicking an actual multimillion-dollar robotic prize competition2 further enhances student motivation. A set of new tools like LEGO Mindstorms Education Base Set with NXT technology (became available in August 2006) and the National Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT (became available for downloads in mid- December 2006) are implemented in this novel engineering design experiment. Bluetooth technology is used for robot-to-robot communication and control.

Previous Work and Justification

The LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge experiment is a part of the pedagogical system implemented in the Introduction to Mechatronics course and the Mechatronics curriculum. This pedagogical system is based on McCarthy’s3 version of the Kolb4 learning cycle and was motivated in part by work presented by Harb et al5. According to Kolb and McCarthy one can learn new concepts by following a pattern (the learning cycle) exemplified by the questions why, what, how, and what if. A set of activities is associated with each part of the learning cycle. Active discovery-based learning is considered an important part of this learning cycle, especially in engineering6. Bruner7 defines discovery learning as a cognitive instructional model whereby students are empowered and encouraged to learn concepts and principles through active hypothesis testing and discovery. “The student will have to explore examples and from them 'discover' the principles or concepts which are to be learned7.”

Engineering laboratory courses use active learning. Depending on the course objectives, the laboratory experiments are either of a cookbook type where students follow a set of instructions and all produce similar results, an organized project type where the instructions are not precise

Jaksic, N., & Spencer, D. (2007, June), An Introduction To Mechatronics Experiment: Lego Mindstorms Next Urban Challenge Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2599

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